Sandi Morris

Dalilah Muhammad breaks 400m hurdles world record after ‘freak’ concussion

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DES MOINES — Dalilah Muhammad came back from a mild concussion to break the 16-year-old world record in the 400m hurdles at the USATF Outdoor Championships on Sunday night. She has a knack for overcoming obstacles — beyond just the 10 barriers on the track — and surprising herself.

“I’m still in shock,” Muhammad said after clocking 52.20 seconds on a wet track, similar to the conditions for her Rio Olympic title.

Muhammad, who took .14 off Yuliya Pechonkina‘s mark from 2003, said she was “kind of shut down” after falling in training two weeks ago. She lost focus while running — without hurdles — and took a “freak” fall, scraping skin.

“Nothing major,” the Queens, N.Y., native said. “Yesterday was like, OK, I’m ready to run again.”

Muhammad moved after hurdle six in Sunday’s final, surging past 2015 World silver medalist Shamier Little to her outside coming around the last curve. (This field was one of the deepest of the four-day meet with four Olympic or world medalists, plus Sydney McLaughlin, the fastest woman in the world in 2018 and, until Sunday, 2019.)

As Muhammad strained for home, she heard the voice of coach Lawrence Johnson in her head, saying, you’ve got to execute that last 40 meters. Drop your arms.

“I was just trying to hold on,” she said.

The celebration didn’t match the enormity of the moment. Muhammad saw her time, clapped her hands and leaned over momentarily before accepting a hug from McLaughlin, who finished second in 52.88 to make her first world team.

“I’ve been kind of hitting that time in practice consistently,” said Muhammad, whose previous personal best was 52.64 from 2017. “I was hoping for it this whole weekend.”

In 2012, Muhammad finished fifth at her last NCAA Championships for USC. Twenty days later, she was sixth in her first-round heat at the Olympic trials, a full six seconds slower than what she ran at Drake Stadium on Sunday.

She stayed in the sport, unsponsored, and in Los Angeles, financially supported by her parents. Her mom, Nadirah, worked as a child protection specialist in New York City. Father Askia served as a Muslim Chaplain for the New York City Department of Correction and an adjunct professor of Islamic Studies at the New York Theological Seminary.

Something clicked under those circumstances in 2013. Muhammad lowered her best time from 56.04 to 53.83 to win the U.S. title. Then she earned world silver, picking up a Nike sponsorship along with it.

But 2014, 2015 and even early 2016 brought more hurdles — a quad injury, “personal problems,” and, four months before the Olympic trials, reportedly changing coaches from Yolanda Demus (mother of now-former American record holder Lashinda Demus) to Johnson, who also coached Olympic 100m hurdles champion Brianna McNeal.

It worked. Muhammad clocked a personal-best 52.88 to win trials. She went to the Olympics owning the fastest time in the world for the year by 1.08 seconds over her next-closest competitor in Rio. She lived up to overwhelming favorite status, taking gold by a comfortable .42.

“The gold was so far from my mind; that definitely wasn’t the goal going into 2016,” she said. “I just wanted to make it as a 400m hurdler.”

Muhammad went even faster to win the 2017 U.S. title — 52.64 — but then hurt her hamstring and finished second to countrywoman Kori Carter at worlds in 53.50.

In 2018, McLaughlin ran 52.75 and turned professional after one season at Kentucky. At 18, McLaughlin said she had designs on the world record, and many believed it was coming.

“Maybe the biggest prodigy in the history of the sport,” NBC Sports analyst Ato Boldon said on Sunday’s broadcast of McLaughlin, who made the Rio team at 16 and was eliminated in the Olympic semifinals as the youngest U.S. track and field competitor since 1972.

McLaughlin has 386,000 Instagram followers. Muhammad eclipsed 26,000 on Sunday night.

“I felt like the underdog in the race,” said Muhammad, who was beaten by McLaughlin in Oslo last month, their first head-to-head in two years. “I think people always kind of root for the underdog.”

USATF OUTDOORS: Full Results

In other events Sunday, Noah Lyles made his first world championships team by winning the 200m in 19.78 seconds. He topped U.S. 100m champion Christian Coleman, who was second in 20.02 to set up a 100m-200m double in Doha. More on Lyles-Coleman here.

Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz was upset by mulletted Craig Engels, but Centrowitz still finished second to make his seventh straight Olympic or world team.

Favorites Daniel Roberts, Grant Holloway and Devon Allen went one-two-three in the 110m hurdles to make up that world team. Holloway beat Roberts at the NCAA Championships in 12.98 seconds, fastest in the world this year, then dived across the finish line Sunday to secure his first world spot. Roberts won in 13.23.

Dezerea Bryant won the women’s 200m in 22.47 seconds, while U.S. 100m champion Teahna Daniels missed the world team in this event .02, taking fourth.

Emma Coburn earned her eighth steeplechase title in nine years, even though she did not need to race here because she as a bye into Doha as defending world champion. Coburn is joined on the world team by Courtney Frerichs, who took second, just as she did at 2017 Worlds.

Coburn ranks third in the world this year behind Kenyans Beatrice Chepkoech (world-record holder) and Norah Jeruto.

Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy fought traffic in the last 200 meters to go from fourth to second behind Donavan Brazier and qualify for worlds. Brazier, 22, ranks fifth in the world this year after being eliminated in the semifinals in his world champs debut in 2017.

Ajeé Wilson earned her third straight U.S. 800m title, clocking 1:57.72. She’s a medal favorite at worlds given the absence of Olympic silver and bronze medalists Francine Niyonasaba and Margaret Wambui due to the IAAF’s new testosterone-capping rule. However, two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya is for the moment eligible while appealing.

Athing Mu, 17, finished fifth in a personal-best 2:01.17.

Lopez Lomong, who won the 10,000m on Thursday, doubled up in the 5000m, but he can’t compete at worlds in the latter because he doesn’t have a fast enough qualifying time. Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo, who lost a final sprint to the 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer Lomong by .27, leads the team.

Shelby Houlihan completed her second straight 1500m-5000m double at nationals by kicking to win the longer distance. Houlihan, 11th in Rio in the 5000m, is not expected to race that event at worlds as she focuses on the 1500m, where has become one of the world’s best in the last two years.

In the pole vault, Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champ ranked No. 1 in the world this year, and Sandi Morris, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist ranked No. 2 in the world this year, both qualified for worlds.

Olympic long jump champion Jeff Henderson appears to have made the world team despite placing fifth because national champion Ja’Mari Ward and fourth-place Jarvis Gotch don’t have a far enough qualifying jump for worlds.

Olympic shot put champion Michelle Carter was beaten by Chase Ealey, who ranks second in the world this year, but both are going to worlds.

Erica Bougard overcame Kendell Williams‘ 66-point lead in the heptathlon in the last event, the 800m, to repeat as national champion.

Bougard’s total, 6,663, ranks third in the world this year behind Olympic champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium and Brit Katarina Johnson-Thompson. The last American to earn a world heptathlon medal was Shelia Burrell in 2001 (bronze).

Jeron Robinson repeated as high jump champion, clearing 2.30 meters to move to joint seventh in the world this year.

The track and field season continues with a Diamond League meet in Birmingham, Great Britain, on Aug. 18.

MORE: Olympic 1500m medalist retires

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Andre De Grasse storms to first Diamond League win in two years

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If Andre De Grasse is to make another Olympic podium push, this summer would be a good time to start surging. The triple Rio Olympic medalist earned his first Diamond League win in two years in Rabat on Sunday.

De Grasse, who suffered season-ending right hamstring injuries the last two summers, won a 200m over world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey in 20.19 seconds. It marked De Grasse’s fastest 200m since this meet in 2017, his last individual race before the first of the hamstring problems.

“I am very grateful with the victory but not happy with the time,” De Grasse said, according to meet organizers. “I want to achieve sub-20 seconds.”

De Grasse, the Olympic 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist, must get faster before this fall’s world championships in Doha.

The world’s swiftest 200m men this year are comfortably sub-20 performers — Americans Michael Norman (19.70, though not expected to race the 200m at worlds) and Noah Lyles (19.72) and Nigerian Divine Oduduru (19.73). None of them were in Rabat. De Grasse’s personal best is 19.80 from Rio.

“It is a long process,” De Grasse said. “I am not fully healthy, I still have a lot of work to do to be really back in shape. I want to be back where I was two years ago.”

Full Rabat results are here. The Diamond League next stops in Stanford, Calif., for the Prefontaine Classic, live on NBC on June 30 from 4-6 p.m. ET.

In other Rabat events, world champion Phyllis Francis took fourth in the 400m won by world silver medalist Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain in 50.13 seconds. Naser ranks second in the world this year behind Bahamian Olympic champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo (absent from Rabat), the only woman to beat Naser since the 2017 Worlds.

Francis was fourth in 50.76, ranking her second among Americans this year. Francis has a bye into worlds as a defending champion.

Nigerian veteran Blessing Okagbare took the 100m in 11.05, upsetting world silver and bronze medalists Marie-Josee Ta Lou (second, 11.09) and Dafne Schippers (fifth, 11.32). The race lacked world championships favorites Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain and American Sha’Carri Richardson, all of whom have easily broken 11 this season.

In the 110m hurdles, Olympic champion Omar McLeod led from the start before hitting the last hurdle and stumbling into 2015 World champion Sergey Shubenkov. Shubenkov fell across the finish line but still won in 13.12, while McLeod was fifth in 13.48. The early world championships favorite appears to be American Grant Holloway, who won the NCAA title in 12.98 and turned pro.

Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba ran the fastest women’s 1500m since August 2016, a 3:55.47 to hold off Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan by .46. Dibaba, who holds the world record of 3:50.07, is undefeated at 1500m since finishing 12th at the 2017 Worlds. Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson was seventh in Rabat in 3:59.83, breaking four minutes for the second time in three seasons.

Botswana’s Nijel Amos edged past Kenyan Emmanuel Korir by .03 in a matchup of the two best 800m runners the two previous seasons. Amos clocked 1:45.57, well off the fastest time in the world this year held by American Donavan Brazier, who was absent from Rabat but beat Amos in Rome two weeks ago. Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy was third in Rabat.

Olympic and world pole vault silver medalist Sandi Morris cleared 4.82 meters for her first Diamond League win since August. The field did not include 2012 Olympic champ Jenn Suhr, who has the world’s best clearance this year of 4.91.

Croatian discus thrower Sandra Perkovic, long one of the most dominant athletes in the sport, lost for the second straight Diamond League meet as she returns from injury.

The double Olympic and double world champion took third with a 64.77-meter effort, trailing Cubans Yaime Perez (68.28) and Denia Caballero (65.94). Perkovic has now lost three straight times dating to last season after going seven straight seasons without back-to-back defeats, according to Tilastopaja.org.

MORE: Why Caster Semenya did not race Rabat

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Noah Lyles, Michael Norman meet in Rome; preview, TV schedule

Noah Lyles, Michael Norman
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Noah Lyles puts undefeated streaks at stake in his first 200m of the season at a Diamond League meet in Rome, live on NBC Sports on Thursday.

Lyles, unbeaten in outdoor 200m races since the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, takes on fellow 21-year-old phenom Michael Norman at Stadio Olimpico (11:05 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold, and 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Lyles is 3-0 all time against Norman, according to Tilastopaja.org.

The U.S. boasts its best young sprint talent in more than a decade among Christian Coleman (100m), Lyles (200m) and Norman (400m), all fastest in the world since the Rio Olympics in their respective signature events. Coleman is not racing in Rome, but headlines a Diamond League stop in Oslo next week.

It evokes memories of 15 years ago, when first-time Olympians Justin GatlinShawn Crawford and Jeremy Wariner swept the 100m, 200m and 400m at the Athens Olympics.

Lyles is the showman of this generation. He raps. He dances. He roars like a Dragon Ball Z character before races and then wins them wearing Speed Racer socks. He had the word “ICON” tattooed on his side at age 20, after a season in which injury kept him out of the U.S. and world championships.

When Lyles beat Coleman in a 100m for the first time in their senior careers two weeks ago, he said it was the beginning of his legacy as a 100m and 200m sprinter (though Lyles repeated this week that he will not attempt to double at worlds in September). A rivalry was born with Coleman, who (along with his girlfriend), vented on Twitter.

Lyles and Norman have a friendlier history, finishing fourth and fifth at the 2016 Olympic trials 200m. Lyles turned professional two weeks later, forgoing college. Norman turned pro after two seasons at USC and is now the sixth-fastest 400m runner in history. While Coleman indicated he plans to go for a 100m-200m double this year, Norman is expected to focus on the 400m at nationals and, should he qualify, worlds.

Here are the Rome entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

11:05 a.m. — Women’s Javelin
12:30 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put
12:35 — Women’s Long Jump
1:15 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:13 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 — Men’s High Jump
2:23 — Men’s 800m
2:30 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:35 — Women’s 100m
2:45 — Men’s 5000m
3:05 — Women’s 400m
3:15 — Women’s 1500m
3:25 — Men’s 200m
3:35 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:45 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:15 p.m.
The four most decorated active women gather in 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr, 2016 Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi, Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris and 2015 World champion Yarisley Silva. They’ll all be eyeing the 37-year-old Suhr’s world-leading clearance of 4.91 meters for 2019. Suhr’s last Diamond League win outside of the U.S. came in 2012.

Women’s 400m Hurdles — 2:13 p.m.
Every Olympic and world champion since 2013 is represented in this field among Kori Carter (2017 Worlds), Dalilah Muhammad (2016 Olympics) and Zuzana Hejnova (2013 and 2015 Worlds). Plus the second- and third-fastest women of 2018 — Shamier Little and Janieve Russell. The only missing superstar is Sydney McLaughlin, whose 52.75 was fastest in the world last year. Muhammad is fastest this season at 53.61.

Women’s 100m — 2:35 p.m.
The two phenoms of this event — U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs and European champion Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain — go head-to-head for the first time. Hobbs won her Diamond League debut in Shanghai in 11.03 seconds, beating Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica (who is also in the Rome field). Asher-Smith won the first two Diamond League 200m of this season in the world’s fastest times of the year. The winner here likely becomes world champs favorite.

Women’s 1500m — 3:15 p.m.
Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson faces world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba for the first time since the 2017 Worlds. Simpson followed her surprise 2011 World title with national titles in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, but the 32-year-old last won a Diamond League race in 2015 and ceded the U.S. crown to Shelby Houlihan last year. This field lacks Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon (out since 2017 due to pregnancy) and Houlihan, but it does boast Brit Laura Muir.

Men’s 200m — 3:25 p.m.
It’s not just Lyles v. Norman. Also in the field: 2017 World gold and bronze medalists Ramil Guliyev and Jereem Richards. None of them have ever beaten Lyles, though. A time to note: 19.65 seconds. That’s Lyles’ personal best. Last year, Lyles joined Usain Bolt as the only men to break 19.7 four times in one season. But Lyles is still far from Bolt-at-his-best territory. He is the joint-eighth-fastest 200m man in history.

MORE: Wayde van Niekerk sets first international race since 2017

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